Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

We wait on the mothers

The elder matriarch spends most of her day resting. She is very arthritic now, and pretty much stands with her head low to ground so laying down is more comfortable for her. This will be her last season. I have to admit that but she has had a very good life and she has given us so much. She lives with the mothers-to-be who are due to lamb this week. I thought we might ave some today but nature isn't ready.

I like to sit out in the barn with everyone - the mothers to be, Daisy, and her elder daughter Lilly who was one of our first lambs back in '05. Cornelia the pig continues to sleep by Daisy which nearly breaks my heart every time. Daisy is patient with her and doesn't mind her eating near her so she goes to her for warmth.

I decided to breed last fall, before we decided to move to Maine. At first when we knew we'd be moving, I kicked myself for breeding. But now I'm glad I did. I think it will be a good way to finish my shepherdly duties here, I hope so anyway. I told a friend I felt like I wasn't here, but I wasn't there either-and I try to breathe, feel my feet on the ground and be present. But limbo is no fun, it's unsettling and quite draining.  I'm finding that walking is good, and any hands on work with my animals and land is healing-as it always has been, but perhaps in a slightly more raw way right now.

It's interesting that some things have happened in the past months that are clear messages to me from the land itself-the lavender finally bit the dust and it was its time to die as it is 12 years old and due to the rains this winter, sheep damage and age, they just all died. I am not sorry, it was time. Little things like that-or the fact after 12 years we finally had a dog mauling of one of our sheep and I just thought, "I'm tired, tired of trying to keep everyone safe." I'm not tired of the sheep, it's the daunting fact I have to keep them safe in nature itself. I am not the queen of Nature.

So lambing might give me some more messages like this.

But every day, White Dog looks in my eyes, and I feel comfort from him as we say together,

Everything is okay.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fresh perspectives

We walked over to our neighbors down the road this morning so Martyn could meet them. They are really cool people and we are so bummed we are just getting to know them as they recently moved in, and now we are leaving. But we will enjoy them while we are still here.

We walked down to their river front which is adjacent to ours. I so enjoyed looking up at some of our fields as we were down there. It was a new view of our property I hadn't seen. The move is also going to bring so many new different perspectives which will fuel inspirations. There are so many things that will happen, we can't even imagine them right now. But until then, I am greeting the current views, and also saying goodbye to them.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Goose and The Dirt Farmer share a magical connection

We have two very special birthdays to celebrate today: Goose...and The Dirt Farmer. Many of you might remember the story behind Goose's arrival...and Moose's. And it is tied into Martyn's birthday and mine.

You see, back in 2013, my mother died at age 87 and it was devastating loss for me. And of course, because I chose to take on elderly Misfits, I was always going through loss of one kind or another, but when my mom died it hit me hard, and I was tired of things dying. Even though I often write about the bookends of life and death, I just wanted an animal to come on board that was healthy and young and wouldn't die right away. I expressed to Martyn that for my birthday I wanted a baby animal to keep.

Now, part of the story you need to know is Martyn's birthday is today, and we are now the same age...for two weeks... and then I turn 58. So unbeknownst to me, Martyn went out back in 2013 to find me a baby goat, and he did, but he kept it a secret. A client had some dairy goats and a little whether and she was happy to have him come live here, so without telling me, he found Goose-who just so happened to have the same birthday as Martyn.

Meanwhile, not knowing Martyn's surprise, I was out snorting around for my own baby goat, figuring I'd have to get this done in my usual sneaky fashion. So I contacted a goat friend and she just happened to have a baby pygmy...who just so happened had the same birthday as me. Eventually, I told Martyn, and explained that I could not turn down a goat with the same birthday. And then he told me he too had found a goat with the same birthday. So we decided we needed to bring home both of them. And I can't imagine not having a Goose without a Moose or vice versa.

While I was suffering the loss of my mother we had two baby goats on the opposite side of death. And every year, I love to retell the story-because I don't think it was a coincidence that they share our birthdays. I think it was all wrapped up into motherly love from above.

So we begin our annual two week celebration-sharing love for each other and giving thanks the other was born. And of course, we thank the stars for finding the two funniest characters around-Moose and Goose.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Faceless shame or fading away?

This morning I woke up with an image that would not go away, a woman sitting with her hands folded on a desk in a dark room, with one window giving a streak of light, but her face was completely washed over without features.

It kept coming back to me and I thought when I get to the studio I need to do a quick sketch.

I went about the morning chores, took a ride on Boone and the image kept coming back to me so it must be important, or perhaps it is someone trying to tell me something. I suppose we could all play psychologist on this. At first I thought it was me, the one who identifies herself with this place and time, fading out.

Then I wondered if it has to do with me feeling invisible to certain people, especially after a recent business encounter where I voiced my opinion and frustration with the other person's lack of communication– that lacking led to misunderstandings and complications for me. But after I voiced that opinion, I sensed a lack of respect from the other party, and their apology felt hollow to me.

I think even when you are not afraid to voice an opinion as a woman, especially in uncomfortable situations, we are prone to feel shame, still in this day and age. Hillary Clinton is accused of 'shouting', Bernie Sanders is not. Seems kind of backwards to me.

Anyway, I felt compelled to sketch it. Maybe it will return tonight or when I wake up tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Signs, trolls and fairies

There has much activity of late, much stress caused by details of selling the property. I can honestly say I have not enjoyed one minute of it. However, I am no push over and having sold nine of my own houses in the past 20 years, I am no wuss either when it comes to holding my ground and maintaining my hard earned equity.

We are now under contract with a buyer-which means if the buyer accepts the inspection results to be completed by next week, we will close the end of March. But, having had closings fall through the day of said closing, I do not relax one bit until the papers are signed and the money is in the bank.

So...I have been distracted, especially since the offer came in last Friday-the same day that we had a roaming dog attack and maul one of the sheep. I witnessed it, but didn't have a rifle there, it was horrible. Animal control is involved, and my sheep is slowly recovering-although I still give her a 50/50 chance of full recovery.

So what does any of this have to do with trolls and fairies? I don't know. I think it shows I am in disarray. The other day I made a sign for the fairy that lives under the front deck. I figured who ever ends up here needs to be respectful to the privacy of the troll, they are so shy, and spook easily.

Somebody asked me if I would take all the signs around the place to Maine. I don't think so. Their meaning is here, and I think their meaning will dissolve the minute we leave. It saddens me, but it is how change and evolution of a life work. The signs have served a purpose for me, and our visitors. They have all been part of the unfolding story here. But the new stories are in Maine. I guess its like when you take a piece of furniture from your aunt's house who passed on, a piece of furniture you always think of her sitting at-but it loses its memory in a new setting. I sense some of my followers are somewhat sad too–like when a favorite show leaves the air, you miss those characters and many characters here are precious to many readers. There will be new stories breathing in Maine, in time.

The worst part about selling a property is during inspections. Here's a place you have literally bled over, pouring everything financial and sweat equity into, and then somebody walks through and pees on all the corners. That's always what it feels like to me, in all the sales I've done. It ceases to be mine at some point. The trick is to remember one thing,

it is till mine and until we agree to everything it will remain ours.

A wise man once told me the trick to any negotiating is to leave something on the table for yourself, but also the other guy. Even if you declare yourself the winner in the proceedings, always leave something of value for the other guy.

I have The Head Troll trained well of course, as you can see here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Huck eyes

It's the time of his life where I have many moments, each day now, where I know he is getting old and showing more signs of the inevitable. Each look of his brown eyes with whites showing express so much and I try to listen without turning his thoughts into what I want to hear versus what he is feeling these days. We're never ready to lose our elders, human or creature-they walked before us lighting the path. When Huck leaves it will be with many stories, many only shared with me.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Love the one you're with

Cornelia the little pig continues to enchant me. She has taken to Daisy, the elder matriarch of the farm. The two of them, along with Daisy's elderly daughter, Lilly, are residing in the mothers-to-be ward with the four pregnant ewes-Mavis, Ophelia, Little Lil and Alma. The mothers can be pretty pushy around food, they are after all most likely carrying twins and have no interest in sharing if they don't have to. Head butts do the trick to let Cornelia know mind her matters. But she is so short she can run under them and around them, it is pretty funny.

What melts my heart, and I finally had my camera at the right time and moment, is when the pig sleeps with Daisy. Daisy is much more tolerant of her and I often find them napping as one.

We are expecting lambs as early as next weekend. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Plum does his final walkabout

I always loved this photo of Orange and Plum, sitting on the sheep graves, looking out on their land.

One of the hardest parts of living with semi feral cats, ones that are born in bramble behind a barn and make their life just fine living outside, is that they often don't say good-bye, at least not in the human way.

Mr. Plum has done his final walkabout, it is for certain now, as he has not been back to his front porch for over four days. Three days is usually the limit I give myself before I let go. There is a bitter sweetness to this loss. On the one hand, I am very sad to see him go, he is twelve years old though and has lived a long, good life for a barn cat-as did his litter mates. But on the other hand, he has died on his land, his home of twelve years. He is with his kin. And I don't have to stress him with a move to Maine.

You might recall that a month or so ago I wrote a post about Plum. I had told him not to worry about us moving to Maine, that I would not abandon him. I also knew he was very content here, and this was his home, his siblings are all buried here in one way or another as is his mother. To take him in a crate for six days and then acclimate him, at age 12, would have been hard on him. He was a very loving cat, but very independent. I could pick him up, nobody else could, and while he didn't want to be held for long, he liked it, and always came up to me in the morning.

Just a couple weeks ago, I sat outside with him while he ate dinner, stroking him. I was able to even medicate his ear which had mites. I told him I was still planning to take him to Maine, unless he decided otherwise. I guess he did. So, I'm relieved for him, and me I guess. I am so glad I could do one final care taking for him and help his ear.

But I do miss him. Since Little Orange went on his walkabout not too many months ago, Plum was the left on the porch, with Peaches. Plum had his own boudoir bedroom with cushions on the deck, ample blankets and food twice a day. He could sit on the porch near the windows and watch us by the fire. Sometimes I'd open the door and offer him a quick visit inside, but he never took me up on it. His home was on the porch.

I know he's gone. But I still find myself looking into his boudoir.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My latest interview now online

I was really pleased to be asked to do an interview with Joanna Marple. Besides the fact that that makes her Miss Marple, she does a very good job on her blog sharing inspiring things about writing and books. She has written YA and children's and has a very interesting background in humanitarian work.

Sometimes when I reread these interviews months or years later, I think, I guess I know more than I sometimes I give myself credit for!. Sometimes it makes me think how far I've come in my artistic evolution in the past 20 years since I became a full time artist. But I encourage you to check out Joanna's blog as there is a wealth of resources for writers too-something I will surely go back to as I work on my current book idea [which I hope to share a teeny bit in the near future].

Thank you, Joanna! You made look downright knowledgeable!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Messages of white donkey

Last night I sold this painting, "Prayer Flags for Old Donkey".

I took it as a very special message, on many levels. Creating art for creation sake is always why I paint, but sharing it and allowing it to breathe into another person is part of the importance and beauty of all art. Art is like a full circle, I think. When I paint something I have my own resonance with the finished work, and the viewer has his or her own reaction to it-sometimes my resonance might play into theirs, we don't always know, but I like to think I birth the piece and like a child send it out into the world with good bones, and its purpose or message will fall where it is needed.

I did this piece back before we had even the courage to talk about relocating our lives, animals and farm to Maine. Most of my paintings last year involved wings, but prayer flags too. I knew something big was coming. I also knew there would be many of my elders leaving me, and that happened-last year we said goodbye to so many, it seemed all at once-Aldo, Stevie, Rudy, Victor, Professor, Priscilla- but I remember when Stevie died, a very hard goodbye, I also had this sense of what a gift it was, a release, that some how he was so connected to my internal ramblings that he knew I needed some strings cut so I could move onto my next giant project. Stevie was special that way. If you ever met him, you would know.

So this piece will go east too-or mid way-to Minnesota, my old homeland. So fitting. It will live with another of my pieces with a woman who found my art last year and really appreciates it and the feelings it brings into her world-and visual sensations too. I appreciate when people invest in art, mine or another's. Not only do artists feel great joy to share art, and be paid and feel they have worth, but it helps us continue. I am not bragging when I say this, but we artists are treasures, all of us. And when we have our work validated, it is like icing on a very good, moist cake.

You can always look at my art on my site and if there is one you like, I can let you know if it is available, and where.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love...and the plot to Maine thickens

It's been a whirlwind few days, and I hardly had a moment to share valentines with all of you!

Today I had some nice people come out to look at the sheep to makes some picks for their new starter flock. I really liked them and that makes a huge difference when selling animals-knowing they will be cared for well, appreciated and loved for all their remaining days.

At the same time we had a showing of the property going on today and it was a serious showing that we feel very enthused about. Coupled with the one this past Friday, we will see what the Apifera wind will bring us. I won't discuss any details, but...we are feeling strong and good vibes from today.

It is exciting. It is daunting. But as pieces feel like they are coming together it is helpful to my soul and anxiety about the unknown, encouraging, rewarding, helpful, grounding for me, myself and I.

I'm just too exhausted to say more. But like I said, my internal queen of a couple days ago is perhaps right....our wings are being sewn I think.

At the end of the afternoon I did my chores early. I spent time with The White Dogs looking into eyes. They told me what they always do,

"It's okay."

To all my Valentines, may you feel love looking in your eyes today and everyday.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Soaking up every shepherdly moment

One of the most heart wrenching facts about the eventual relocation to Maine, for me, is to leave my flock. It is unlikely they will come with us and it has been the hardest realization I have had to grapple with. It is not only letting go of my relationship and stewardship to them, it is knowing they will find places that are suited to their remaining health and life.

Sheep are sensitive creatures to stress and I think it is best they aren't hauled around for five-6 days. I think they are also plenty happy when they have grass, hay and a water, and their flock, even if that flock changes. A wise horseman once told me,

"Don't ever think you are the only person in the world that can care for your animals-that's how you can get into trouble down the road,"

Even if we find the perfect place for sheep, I think it would be hard on them to relocate. Not to mention it would be another separate hauler to fire.

My goals are to sell the best breeding ewes, and rams, and hen rehome my retirees in pairs, hopefully to friends or followers who know how many animals I've cared for and helped over the years. There are a few, like Daisy, that will die here, it is the way it needs to e for her, and me. She is in her last year and I can tell her arthritis is worsening, it will be a hard goodbye, but she will be of the land she so helped graze so we could share her bounty.

Even though there are pending details floating about, I am soaking on every moment with as much love and admiration for all we have done here together, my flock and I. The first lambing-oh, I am sure Daisy will always roll her eyes if she thinks of it-I checked her udder so many times I'm sure she just was so relieved to finally lamb, which she did on her own as they often do. All the learning curves we had, the biggest of course the Spring of Death. I wouldn't change one day.

I'm not a perfect shepherd, nobody is. But my flock comes to me from the upper hills when I call, and I have never lost sight of my responsibility to them. perhaps along the way my biggest mistakes have been not shepherding myself enough, not culling the flock as well as I could have to reduce the number of non working ewes. I thought we'd live here for ever and figured at a certain point, I could let them all die naturally, one by one, on the land they lived on. That was always my covenant to them.

But plans change. Our move to Maine is the right thing for us, as people, as a couple, as a team, and as an evolving farm. Part of me is terrified, literally, not to have sheep anymore. I identify with being a shepherd. But then I realized there are many ways to shepherd, of course we all know this. I am researching raising bees. A friend sent me a copy of the Bee Bible and I'm excited about shepherding bees! It seems so funny, that we named the farm "Apifera" which means "bee bearing" and now, finally, I will have them, only in Maine. And they have wings, let's not forget the Calling All Wings symbolism this year and last.

But, as we worked today on what I assume will be our last fencing project, the flock gathered. Those are the moments, these are the moments, that sting the heart but also just make me swell with joy and pride-and gratitude of all I have done here, and all they have done. I guess that is what these days are for me-all that we have done is flashing in front of me in a constant film reel, like a clip montage of a movie of my life. All the fencing, the changes, the lesson, the deaths, births, sunburns, sprained backs, smashed thumbs...holding a lamb for the first time, or burying one next to her mother....it's here in every second as I walk around doing my work and chores.

The pregnant ewes, only four, are preparing their bodies to shift and push those lambs out. Their hips are starting sink a but, vulva's are getting puffy and they flag their tails a lot. All are the signs they have taught me that motherhood is about to begin in a couple weeks. It will be my final and most important lambing season.

We have had some very good showings of late on the property. My inner queen is telling me...it is coming, perhaps quite soon-so enjoy I will revel every second here, even when there are goodbyes-becasue there will be many hellos too.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Raggedy Man's birthday hat

The cookie party for Raggedy Man's 7th birthday today was moved inside due to soggy weather conditions. These parties never last long, once the cookies are gone the guest pretty much dissipate and get one with usual routines-chewing cud, napping, head butting, crochet and book club.

I made a hat for Raggedy a few years ago and put this picture up on his wall tonight, to remind him that he is a birthday boy all day-that is the rule, no ifs and or buts, he gets to be king for a day.

To the raggiest little man ever, Muppet feet and all, he is such an endearing fellow. He arrived stinky and...raggedy. And thin and ill kept. But, with time, and consistent feedings, he blossomed, ballooned actually. It's okay Rag, I've ballooned too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Noses and mugs, but why?

I was thinking today about the ever present camera culture we have become-via cell phones-although I still rely on my Nikon for much of my work. Why am I compelled to take what might be the same photo over and over again? These two mugs are usually at the gate each night, yet each time, it is fresh and new and if I have my phone I take a quick shot. Then I share it with my followers and friends.

In the end, I thought, it's just a bookmark of today. I enjoy the moment, captured it, moved on, but I think the photo is a homage to the splendor I feel in that moment.

And I'm glad we have all these photos to live with. I'm a visual person, a photo is just one part of any story, even if the story is very short, like this one:

Earnest the pig came to the gate, so did White Dog. They smiled in unison, at me.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Horse and Pig speak

"I admire you," the pig said.

He was looking up, toward the blue sky, into the muzzle of a red horse.

"I know," said the horse. "But I am nothing special."

Of course he was special, even though in terms of grand looks or flashy movement, he had neither.

"You undersell yourself," said the pig. "I am small compared to many of my kind, but I have spots that many don't."

"Yes, the spots are catchy. I don't have spots either. Or a long top knot," said the horse.

"But you smell of horse, this is an exquisite attribute to have," said the pig.

"Perhaps," said the horse, "to another horse."

The White Dogs arrived. They leapt up to greet the horse as usual.

"The pig is right, your smell is fabulous," White Dog said.

Back in the house, a woman worked on a painting. She was trying to capture the smell of her horse. She heard a whinny, and left her indoors to be outdoors, and headed towards the world's most exquisite smell.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Don't let the future dictate the weather

We are experiencing gorgeous weather and it is forecast to be sunny and in the 60 degree range all week. The first warm and sunny day always brings out the sun nappers, of all ages, to lie on the concrete to warm their bones. Roosters deliriously hook up with lazy acrobatic goats, and little odd fellows pick bookend spots to nap. Even the ever vigilant Marcella takes snooze, but her ear is tuned to the vibrations of any activity. I found the image of her almost surreal. Some might say she looks dead-but I see the photo as more of a dream, a floating White Dog, dreaming, moving forward.

This weekend was and is busy. We got the lambing pens ready, in the new barn. I decided to lamb there this season so we made temporary stalls for the four mothers to be. Then the old matriarch Daisy, shown here, can be present with her kin of multiple generations, it will most likely be her last season I think. Cornelia, Wild Otis, Lilly and Opal are also in with the mothers to be.

All the ewes will be first time moms. This is always a bit of nail biter, but I've only had a couple ewes be a bit daft at first lambings. Most are programmed much better than a human to carry it all out-Nature's the teacher and instincts are well ingrained.

I had hemmed and hawed about if we should breed last fall, and wasn't sure what my hesitancy was all about, but right after breeding we decided to move to Maine. At first I was kicking myself for not listening to the hemming and hawing better-for the record, it was Martyn who finally made the final call to breed. The lambing would mean more lives to rehome, depending on the move date. But now, I'm really glad we will have one final lambing here. In fact, I think it is an important process for me and the universe knew that. It will be a very important lambing season, more so than the first.

When you put your property on the market, it is easy to get sucked up into limbo. There are many what ifs and now what and why are we doing this. One has toes in two sides of the stream. It can -and pretty much has-turned into a daily good bye of sorts. But in the past weeks, I have been really focused on something-I'm here, now. The lambing will make me very present, with my beloved flock, a flock I will most likely have to part with. Over time, I am becoming more comfortable with that-for lack of a better word. Moving a flock might be too stressful on them, for that long trip. I do believe there are many good shepherds out there that I will somehow be connect with. It will not happen all at once. But the first step is accepting and believing it is all okay.

So, as we sit around at night and often dream and plan our new life-what kinds of things we want to grow and what kind of house we want-what we want to differently perhaps-we are also spending lots of time here-now. We have been working in our garden a lot this weekend. The first thing that came to me when I was weeding was, I have to make the garden presentable for house lookers. But then I realized as I worked, I am doing this for the garden, a thank you, a tidying up to make sure we leave her in the best condition we can before we leave her to evolve into what she will become. Just as I left our last beautiful garden, the next one became the living being of the moment, and that will happen again. The garden here, the land, they do not hold me down, they don't have a motive of any kind, they just are.

The weather is simply...perfect. I will soak it up. Many remind me -why they do this I don't know, as if cold weather will kill me, I'm a Minnesotan for God's sake, I lived on the East coast for many years- but some just can't keep their lips quipping you're going to miss these early springs. I have felt so graced to have lived in this climate, and to have been able to grow so many plants I couldn't in Minnesota.

The future holds many living things for Apifera. Next February 7, I might be in a snow storm. But today, right now, I am not.

White Dog floats forward

Little Moose and Goose are bookends in life

Beautiful Daisy, the elder retired matriarch will be with the new mothers

Otis was brought down from upper flock to be at lambing

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Art for a four year old friend...and Misfits

Goodness! Where did the week go? I've been busy and also Martyn has been sick all week so I was a bit distracted. But I'm back.

I wanted to share a few things art related. I have set up a section on the shop called Henry's Fundraiser. Henry is my four year old friend who I have loved since I met him when he was 'little'. His school is having a fundraiser to help with scholarships and educational field trips. Henry loves his school, and now his baby brother will attend the same school someday too. So I thought I'd try to help him out, and 50% of my sales will go to Henry's school fund, and 50% will be added to the Misfits to Maine fund in Henry's name. There are lots of inexpensive things too, something for all budgets.

I'm also really excited that Sundance is showcasing an exclusive print of my art, and they are now available. it also was in the catalogue this week so I'm hoping for lots of good things to come from it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Chicken Named Dog on the loose

There was a small break out from the chicken coop this week. I have been keeping my hens, along with Franklin the lead rooster and Uno the subsidiary rooster locked in their chicken run. This is because of the sneaky Banties that lay their eggs in highly sophisticated secret areas, setting on them just long enough to bring us surprise chicks.We have already had two surprise clutches this past spring and are overrun with hens. Along comes three more roosters that I agreed to take on for the neighbor's daughter after her father died as she is cleaning out the place, and I have chick making testosterone raptors all over the place. The three rogue roosters live in the barns and have been, so far, agreeable. Bu they want one thing.

But somebody, "Not I, said the Pig", left the roost door open, and some of the hens escaped, seeking the company of one of the rogue roosters-he is quite handsome, I can't blame them.

One of those was Chicken Named Dog, who is pretty old now, but she still has wanderlust in her feet. I must say she looked lovely with the backdrop here in this photo op that day.

"Get back to your hut, or I will leave you to Nature," I told her.

With that, she flew, squawked, and ran back to her flock. It took a bit of sneaky chicken grabbing to catch the other two hens-young ones, not real bright yet, and I waited until rogue rooster was, well, having sex with them and took advantage of their locked down position and was able to grab them easily.

Never dull with chickens.